Creasing lighting Audi’s sharp-suited new 2020 Audi RS6 Avant C8 takes aim at the Mercedes-AMG E63 in the battle of the superwagons.
Audi’s RS6 Avant is one of those a performance cars that shouldn’t be a hit, but is. It will rarely win a group test because its rivals from Stuttgart and the other side of Munich (when it builds such a car) are judged to be more focused, sharper and more rewarding to drive when not loaded to the gunwales. Yet it’s the RS6 that many of us would purchase if it were our own money.
The RS6 has always had that additional personality trait, the one that appeals on a level beyond driver modes, power outputs and the nuances of steering feel; it’s the faithful companion that will never say no. Having invented the fast estate car concept 25 years ago with a little help from Porsche, with its latest RS6 Audi doesn’t stray far from that recipe of a horsepower output you’d associate with a supercar and the practicality of a premium hire car.
Beneath the new bonnet, with its quartet of sharp-edged creases and a powerdome, is the VW Group’s ubiquitous 4-litre twin-turbo V8, as used by Bentley, Lamborghini, Porsche and, of course, Audi. In the RS6 it produces 592bhp and 590lb ft of torque and now features a 48V mild- hybrid drive system. Although it doesn’t provide a performance boost, this system can recover up to 12kW (16bhp) of power during deceleration to charge its own lithium-ion battery, which in turn allows up to 40 seconds of engine-off coasting between 34 and 99mph, and enables the start/ stop system to work at speeds up to 14mph. You’ll need to wait a little while before the 700bhp plugin hybrid Performance model arrives.
There’s an eight-speed Tiptronic ’box, which now has a launch control function, and quattro four-wheel drive with a mechanical locking centre diff as standard and a rear limited-slip diff as part of the Dynamic and Dynamic Package Plus options. Unlike the offerings of AMG and BMW M, there is no rear-drive-only drift mode, with only up to 85 per cent of torque sent to the rear wheels. Both front and rear suspension are a five-link design with air suspension fitted as standard, which itself includes a new air spring module and a 50 per cent increase in spring rate.
Sitting 20mm lower than a standard A6 Avant, the RS6 lowers itself by an additional 10mm at 74mph (or you can raise it 20mm at low speed to get across that rough paddock). If air isn’t your thing (we’re rarely convinced by it), RS Sport Suspension Plus with Dynamic Ride Control is available. This uses steel springs and three- stage adjustable dampers, the latter diagonally connected via oil lines, each with a central valve, so in cornering the unloaded rear wheel sends additional fluid to support the loaded front wheel, thus reducing roll and pitch.
While you can’t select rear-wheel drive, there is still a handful of driver modes to pick from - Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Efficiency - plus two RS modes, RSI and RS2, which allow you to create personalised modes and gain quick access to them via the RS Mode button on the steering wheel. RS2 also gives you direct access to switching oft the stability control systems.
Steel brakes are standard, with 20mm-larger carbon-ceramics that save 34kg optional. The 21-inch wheels and their 275/35 tyres will go some way to negate that weight saving, but not as much as the optional 22s and 285/30 boots will.
It’s safe to say the new RS6 Avant will offer a level of performance expected of an estate car that not only has the angry face of a man chewing a wasp, but the firepower to deliver a painful sting to those who attempt to swat it away. RS6s have never been shrinking violets, but this latest version has a level of menace about its design some felt was lacking in its predecessors. The single-frame grille will All the widest of widescreen mirrors, while the larger air intakes in the front bumper, more pronounced rear diffuser and 80mm wider body (only the front doors, roof and tailgate are carried over from an A6) give a level of presence normally associated with a muscle car when viewed in the interior mirror of a Ford Mustang.
In a world of performance SUVs that bludgeon their way across the landscape, cars such as the RS6 provide the intelligent solution. Its interior tech is the very latest Audi has to offer, the At and finish will be beyond reproach and there’s a proportional amount of interior space to match the exterior footprint. And, of course, it’s quick, massively so, and if previous generations are anything to go by the new RS6 Avant will continue to be the car many of us would And room for.
SPECIFICATION 2020 Audi RS6 Avant C8
Engine V8, 9393cc, twin-turbo
Power 592bhp @ 5600-6000rpm
Torque 590lb ft @ 2050-4000rpm
Top speed 155-190mph (depending on option packs)
Basic price TBC
Far left: Audi RS6 gets Audi’s latest tech, including its Virtual Cockpit and twin touchscreens. Middle left: suspension drops 10mm above 74mph. Left: optional carbon-ceramic brakes save 34kg in total.